It's a little-known fact that June marks the beginning of monsoon season in New England. Or at least that's what this week of relentless rainfall would have me believe. It is also, after seven solid months of sweaty-palmed anticipation, the beginning of farmers' market season! The one behind my apartment has just opened; others have been kickin' for a couple weeks. Check out the Massachusetts Federation of Farmers Markets for more days and locations. My overtired, overworked body was buoyed at the mere site of all the offerings. Paper-writing was just going to have to go on hold for the day. You can hardly pay me enough to go out and buy jeans, shoes... but this is a place where I'll gladly empty out my wallet week after week. I bought tons of veggies, of course, and some potted plants and herbs (to help supplement the ones that bit it as seeds under my watch), and what I'd really been holding out for: strawberries. Their time with us is terribly fleeting, and I'll snatching 'em up by the quart for as long as they're around. Half of this week's were gobbled up plain, as tiny, plump, juicy, impossibly sweet little bursts of awesome in my mouth. The rest went into this tart, one that I've been fantasizing about making for an embarassingly long time. Almond meal makes for a really moist pastry – not as flaky and buttery as one might want in a tart shell, but I think the flavor more than makes up for the difference. And if you have and fresh basil around for garnish, all the better – one whiff is like pure, concentrated essence of summer.
Strawberry Rhubarb Tart
For the tart shell:
½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour (or pastry flour. Or good ol' all-purp)
½ cup almond meal
½ cup Earth Balance
¼ cup confectioner's sugar
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch pie or tart pan. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour and almond meal until you get a crumbly mixture. Press the mixture into the pan, pushing along the seam of the pan so the mixture creeps up the sides. Bake for twenty minutes, or until just browned (I got away without using pie weights, but if your shell starts to bubble up, throw something lightly weighted on it to hold it down). Set it aside and let it cool while you make the filling.
For the filling:
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, stems removed, and thinly sliced (I didn't bother to hull mine, since the berries were so tiny)
2 stalks rhubarb, washed and finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons sugar
juice from one lemon
3 tablespoons flour
In a medium saucepan, gently heat the lemon juice over low heat. Add the strawberries and rhubarb and cook gently, until the rhubarb is just softened and the strawberries start to release their juices. Stir in the sugar, taste and add more if it's still quite tart. Stir in the flour one tablespoon at a time and let the mixture thicken for a minute. Pour the mixture into the tart shell and bake for about five to seven minutes, or until the mixture is pretty well firm in the shell. Garnish with ribbons of fresh basil. Serves 6.